Let's Forget About the Tongue-Tied Lightning: Battling Britney Spears and Gilbert Arenas for 2008 Weblog Awards

Sunday afternoon, my editor e-mailed me and asked how I was doing in the 2008 Weblog Awards, where I'm nominated for Best Celebrity Blogger, alongside blogging heavyweights Gilbert Arenas and Britney Spears.

Yes, you read that correctly.

"I think I'm going to lose to Britney Spears," I wrote back.

"You should write about it for your column," she said.

"Well," I thought, "I told Twitter that my conflicted feelings about the whole thing are too complicated for 140 characters ... sure, let's do that."

So now, without further ado, I present this week's column (Ha. I bet you thought you were actually reading this week's column all along! That's how I get you! I'm like a ninja, I am!)

I found out last week that I was nominated for a 2008 Weblog Award. The last time I paid attention to these awards, it was in 2002, shortly after I'd started my blog at WIL WHEATON dot NET. At the time, I was trying to Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake, and I thought that winning a bunch of awards would make me feel good, and maybe get me some attention from the entertainment industry where I was so desperately trying to make a comeback at the time.

I posted about it on my blog frequently, really whoring myself out for votes, and even though I didn't deserve it (I hadn't even been blogging for a full year at the time) I ended up winning every category in which I was nominated, including best new blog and weblog of the year.

Nobody in the entertainment industry cared (this was in those dark ages, six long years ago, when Hollywood thought of the Internet as a fad, and scoffed at bloggers as a bunch of basement-dwelling dorks who didn't go outside) but it still made me feel good. It made me feel really good. It made me feel like I'd accomplished something, and I felt proud of myself. Longtime bloggers were annoyed with me, and though I didn't understand why at the time, with the benefit of hindsight and perspective, I get it now; while the content of those old posts is novel and sort of interesting, I guess, the writing style is just dreadful, and nobody likes it when someone storms into a party with a bunch of friends and just takes over the place, which is what I unintentionally did that year. When I got a little perspective on the whole thing, I felt like a fraud, and I vowed to ignore awards until I felt like I actually deserved the nomination on merit, rather than the other thing.

A few years went by, and I published a couple of books that grew out of work I did on my blog. I was hired to write a lot of columns online, and I began to feel like I was a Writer. I didn't actively seek out nominations, but when they happened, I was now only nominated in "celebrity" categories. While I was a more authentic blogger than the people I competed against, I wasn't nearly as popular, and I never won anything. In one particularly humiliating defeat, I lost to Gilbert Arenas, who posted a plea to his fans a couple days before the voting closed that was ... well, I'll let you draw your own conclusion:

The leader is Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: The Next Generation. No wonder why he's winning, do you know how many Star Trek fans there are? They're all sitting online in their parents' house with their long hair and they're sitting there voting for someone that nobody has heard of besides them.

But I know who should win ... the one and only.

I've been blogging for over a year now. I had my year anniversary and I'm already in the top five. That's called amazing.

Wheaton is killing me. He has like 50 percent of the votes and I have like four percent. That is a disgrace.

He defeated me by about 200 votes - less than 1% - and I viscerally understood why all those bloggers were so unhappy with me in 2002. Here's how, uh, gracious he was in victory:

That's amazing that you can beat out 30 years of Star Trek followers in two days. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The fans are 2-0 in buzzer beaters for me. We beat out Vince and then we beat out Wheaton, Wheaton the Voltron.

Wheaton fell apart in the competition worse than Britney Spears' career has.

Mmmm ... classy.

Awards are a weird thing. On the one hand, it's awfully nice to be recognized for something you've done, and it does feel good. On the other hand, though, it feels a little silly to care about it. I do my work for it's own sake, because it's what I do and I can't not do it. I don't do any of this to get awards. On the other other hand, it's undeniable that winning awards is great for marketing and publicity. That's an important part of my business, and it's how I put food on my family's table.

But the thing is ... I'm not crazy about the whole "celebrity blogger" label. I don't think of myself like that, and I don't think I have much in common with the other nominees - for starters, they're all rich and famous - and while it's nice to be nominated and potentially recognized, I wish it was for something more meaningful than "celebrity" blogging, because "celebrity blogger" is about the most loaded term you can get this side of "former child actor."

When I hear "celebrity blogger," I think of someone you frequently see in the pages of People Magazine. I think of someone who is more familiar with TMZ than HTML. I think of someone who spends a lot of time picking out what they're going to wear without underpants, but hasn't spent a second trying to get their blog to pass the W3C, or - god help us all - Bobby. I don't think of someone who interacts with readers in comments, or reads and comments on other blogs, or participates in the larger blogging community in any meaningful way. In fact, the clearest picture I get is of someone from the marketing department at Britney Spears, Incorporated™ walking out of a meeting and back to his cubicle, where he does his best to leverage our standing in the Web 2.0 and social media communities to ensure the client achieves the ranking one thousand three hundred and thirty-seven, a coveted status in the online mediaspace known as the blog-o-sphere. When I think of celebrity bloggers, I think of a lack of authenticity, painstakingly careful message coordination, and participation in name only. I have worked really, really hard to ensure that none of that describes me, yet I keep finding myself described as a "celebrity blogger," which feels really limiting to me, because I've tried so hard to be more than that.

This year, I'm nominated again, in the familiar celebrity blogger category, and even though I think of myself as just this guy who has a high-profile job ... I really want to win it, even if it's only as a "none of the above" vote. If I do, maybe I can challenge the whole notion of what makes a "celebrity blogger." Or maybe it won't matter at all, and everyone will forget about it in two weeks. I tend to overanalyze things, if you hadn't noticed.

Voting closes at 2 p.m. today, and as I write this, I have a pretty big lead. If it stands, I win. If it doesn't, I'll be right where I was last week. Either way, I'm still going to be here in a week with a new column, and I'll still be quoting lyrics from Jonathan Coulton songs on Twitter.

But if I do end up with the most votes, I promise that I won't say any of the other nominees have collapsed like Gilbert Arenas' 111 million dollar knee, even whoever writes Britney's blog, because that would just be tacky.

Wil Wheaton uses a passive voice to show how gentle he'll be when he soft rocks you. Subscribe to this column's RSS feed here.


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